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Friday Book Review: “The Opposite of Love,” “After You” and “Song of Solomon”

June 25th, 2010

Now reading:

Riddle me this, Batman… why didn’t I review Julie Buxbaum’s “The Opposite of Love” when it came out in 2008? Hmm. Who knows. I read it, really enjoyed it, and refused to pass it along to friends. Selfish, selfish girl.

Emily Haxby, an almost-thirty-year-old lawyer in Manhattan, does not know why, but she cannot commit. Her ma is dead, her big-dog politico dad (“This is Lieutenant Governor Haxby”) is… a handful. And her Grandpa Jack is not doing well. But she won’t admit it. And then there’s Andrew, her ex. “I broke up with him, remember.” Mason, her sexy co-worker. And her boss, who likes to, uh, show off.

Great book, good summer read, and I hear it’s been optioned for a movie.

Buxbaum’s new novel, “After You,” is as good as her first, but it’s a different sort of read. Ellie Lerner flies from the Boston suburbs where she lives a quiet, not entirely happy life with her husband, to London, to care for her best friend Lucy’s child (and husband, perhaps?) after Lucy is murdered on a quiet Thursday morning as she walked her daughter to school from their Notting Hill home.

It’s not a murder mystery, but it turns out Lucy did have her mysteries. And what is Ellie running from? Or to? I especially liked the character of the little girl, Sophie, who becomes selectively mute after the tragedy. The scenes with Ellie, where they read “The Secret Garden” together, are poignant. Really good book.

In the middle of these two books, I started re-reading Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” for the tenth time or so. I first read it when I was in college, just a few years after its release. This book has always had a hold on me. The quirky, elusive Ruth; the mystery that is Macon Dead; his son, Milkman, aka Macon Dead Jr.

They slid into a booth and ordered Scotch and water. Milkman drank his quickly and ordered another before asking Guitar, “How come they call me Milkman?”
“How the fuck would I know? That’s your name, ain’t it?”
“My name is Macon Dead.”
“You drag me all the way over here to tell me your name?”
“I need to know it.”

But Hagar… I think it was Hagar who got to me first. Hagar, “spinning into a bright blue place,” a place “where everything was frozen except for an occasional burst of fire inside her chest that crackled away until she ran out into the streets to find Milkman Dead.”

Shivers, every time. I love “Jazz,” too, it’s second on my list for my top favorite Toni Morrison novels. “Beloved,” “The Bluest Eye,” and the others, all good, but “Song of Solomon” is mine, mine, mine. I’m reading the Everyman’s Library edition this time around, with an introduction by Reynolds Price.

(Please see disclaimer, y’all.)

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